Wednesday, December 02, 2009


It is beyond my comprehension why so many of us, while traversing the highway of our lives on this earth in these, our eternal souls, cannot resist the billboards lining the way enticing us to exit to see the reptile farm, the cadillac ranch, the house-sized ball of yarn, the Winchester Mystery House, any garish freak show coming up on the next exit.
So, we cannot look at the beggars at our prominent city intersections, even if we drop them a fiver. We cannot bear to see the good heart that may actually beat under the torn and worn clothing of the homeless, so we look away or even cross the street to avoid encounter.
But we will, dollars to donuts, slow down to rubberneck the fiery car crash. We will spend hours looking for "dirt," whether for mere entertainment or for sinister or sinful purposes.
So, now the world's at attention as the infinitesmal looking glass tries to fry open the life, the soul, the integrity of a King that was presumed, nee even ordained, to have been the epitome of a champion. Tiger as Aslan. "Say it ain't so, Joe," is the legendary quote from the kid/fan to Shoeless Joe at the culmination of the Black Sox scandal.
Well, Christ be with Mr. Woods, his wife, his children and those closest to his heart.
Memo to all Talking Heads: All our houses are made of glass in this veil of tears. Try to remember that before you circle your next kill and enter the feeding frenzy. Remember that; Christ will remember.
Then look in the mirror.

Monday, November 16, 2009

From Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ-"The Heart of the Enlightened"
"A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who had shared an ordeal with him.
'Have you forgiven the Nazis' he asked his friend.
'Well, I haven't. I'm still consumed with hatred for them.'
'In that case,' said his friend gently, 'they still have you in prison.'"

...(our enemies are not those who hate us but those whom we hate)...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"We will not negotiate with terrorists"
This quote is so ubiquitous that to ascribe an original source is not worth the time to research, in my opinion. But it has been so oft misappropriated and uttered by blustery pols and demigogues that it is cliche in Hollywood scripts.
Try thinking about the quote if it were uttered by St. Francis of Assissi. What if by living the prayer we realized the truth of the impotence of terrorism?

It is posited the original publication of the prayer of St. Francis was submitted anonymously to the French publication La Clochette in 1912.

Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l'amour.
Là où il y a l'offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l'union.
Là où il y a l'erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l'espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.
Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu'à consoler,
à être compris qu'à comprendre,
à être aimé qu'à aimer,
car c'est en donnant qu'on reçoit,
c'est en s'oubliant qu'on trouve, c'est en pardonnant qu'on est pardonné,
c'est en mourant qu'on ressuscite à l'éternelle vie.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I did not come to bury OCP...

After the last post, it occured to me that I might be counted among those that are fully encamped in the "OCP is THE LITURGICAL/INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX" wing of musical directors. That's not the case.
So, in a possibly insufficient, but earnest effort at "restorative justice" I'd like to mention that in the same issue of TODAY'S LITURGY, Angela Westhoff-Johnson, OCP's octavo reviewer and editorial staffer (as well as Portland Cathedral's DM) reviews one composition by a very talented, under the radar, composer. The piece is an "O Magnum Mysterium" by Douglas Kingsley. I completely agree with the compact praise for this work by Mrs. Westhoff-Johnson, and likely would have added more.
(She also offers a larger review of Michael Joncas' "Rorate caeli" that directors with solid choirs should audition, absolutely!)
I briefly met Mr. Kingsley in the Spring of this year. He happened to have attended our Schola Mass inwhich we generally sing the Rice Choral Propers, a couple of chant ordinary movements, chant at Communion and a motet. He introduced himself after the Mass as a chorister from the DC/Baltimore area, we chatted, I think I gave him a copy of a Gloria that is based upon Proulx's "Misa Oecumenica." He was so gentlemanly, kind and unpretentious. He never once mentioned he was a composer with many pieces published by Trinitas, OCP's more challenging choral series. Then I received in the Summer a post with about three of his pieces, including the reviewed work. Sublime stuff. Check Mr. Kingsley's work out by all means. Mrs. Westhoff-Johnson thought his piece was a humble gem to keep in folders for quick access, if needed. I think there's more depth to his noble simplicity than that, but she was very positive. So am I about Mr. Doug Kingsley.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday meandering. That means I'm wandering aimlessly. Which means I'm kind of going sideways to sideways.

This post is likely to take some time to process, both for myself as I lay it out, and for anyone who takes up the task of reading and following a possible tenuous thread.
In the latest volume of the OCP periodical, TODAY'S LITURGY (Advent-Epiphany 09-10) Dr. Elaine Renler-McQueeny offers the following commentary for the Fourth Sunday of Advent Music Selections (the word emphases are mine, without explanation):

"Our liturgy overflows with the news that our God loves us, and that he has prepared a human body for his Son. Almost everyone is familiar with the scriptural text of the Magnificat. Kudos to musicians for teaching it in song. For a change of pace, here's a contemporary poetic rendering of Mary's Canticle for your Advent reflection. Sometimes we use this version...before meals during this graced season. Teachers often have enjoyed using it with youth at retreats and non-liturgical gatherings. May you and your musicians (and even your liturgy committees) enjoy Mary's Song from The Message.

I'm bursting with God-news;
I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.>

God took one good look at me, and look what happened-
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
The God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
On those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
Scattered the bluffing braggarts,
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
Pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
The callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
He remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It's exactly what he promised,
Beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Luke 1:46-55, The Message. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004

When I first read this yesterday I was struck dumb by a number of reactions. What would prompt a reasonably respected Liturgist/Musician to proffer such an impoverished and pretentiously modest translation of a perfect singularity among all of scriptural and liturgical hymntexts ever transcribed and uttered for human edification? Even though Dr. Rendler qualifies its usage as devotional or inspirational, for personal not liturgical assignment, that she would determine that this mixture of pre-adolescent prose in a soup that also contains bodice-ripper images of God's arms that would make Michelangelo blush, and which is a blatantly pale surrogate for the metaphors in the Song of Solomon, as well as a hubris on Mary's part that contradicts (in my estimation) the overall ethos of supreme humility and trust in God explcitly evident in the scripture passage, (pause for breath) confounds me. And I was literally surprised that her source was Zondervan. No more to say on that.

Where I'm going with this is that it might be reasonable to conclude that Dr. Rendler and Archbishop Trautman are philosophical pals if the issue of literacy and understanding of our ritual texts was on their table. Maybe that's a stretch of an assumption, and I know what "assume" can lead to, but....
Abp. Trautman has fired his official salvo across the bow regarding the "intelligibility" with this recent quote: "“The vast majority of God’s people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal like ‘ineffable,’ ‘consubstantial,’ ‘incarnate,’ ‘inviolate,’ ‘oblation,’ ‘ignominy,’ ‘precursor,’ ‘suffused’ and ‘unvanquished.’ The vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic,”

The standard rendition of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.

Returning to Dr. Rendler's endorsed version, is Mary bursting after receiving "God-news" literally (like Mr. Creasote in "The Meaning of Life") or is she acting like she just received a full-access pass backstage at a Josh Groban concert?
She dances. Is that magnifying God, and rejoicing? You make the call.
And his mercy "flows wave after wave." I get the generation analogy, but I'm a bit distracted more by an ironic image from the film "From here to eternity." My bad.
I need to wind this down. Obviously I realize that "bluffing braggarts" might be more accessible a term than "ignominy" and that teenagers may get it that "callous" might mean something other than hardened crusty fingertip tissue after a 48 hour "Guitar Hero" marathon.
But the thing that so msytifies me (and truthfully, offends me as a teacher) is that such efforts to make all vocabularies relevant and user-friendly literally insults the noble philosophical goal for all humans to savor the subtleties and treasures gifted to us by God with language. Is there no deeper meaning to transformative power when St. John writes "In the beginning was the Word."? And to think that those nuances become even more precious when they are transformed into many languages other than Latin to English!
When I think of mercies bestowed, I rather tend to think of a helping hand, a fresh breath and a new start and a rising attitude. Heck, I might even break out into singing with Josh- "You raise me UPPPPPPPP..."
But being piled upon, hmmmmmm. And piled on again? You don't want to know what that image could evoke.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Home at All Souls

As I mentioned in the last entry, my schedule has been erratic, my attention span more than erratic. So much so that this morning I'd not only forgotten that the school's second grade "All Saints Pageant" was TODAY, but I looked at watches that I'd not set back an hour on Saturday, called the school in a panic only to realize the time frame was still good! The kids were precious.
But somewhere in all the mix I didn't learn until verbal announcements yesterday that for the first time an ALL SOUL'S Mass would be held at our civic cemetery. So, I emailed the pastor and asked if he would like music ministry. Some of you might say, "Well, that's expected, C., why would you have to ask?" We have a lot of Masses among four parishes now, Christmas (and the school play doth approach as does the choral seasonal concert) and I'm bushed! How's that?
Anyway, the pastor was kind enough to reply in the affirmative. And he indicated one of our resident associates would be presiding at the cemetery.
So this morning, after the second grade, I hop to putting together THE ORDER OF MUSIC! I figured that a reasonable crowd of 50 folks would show; they're used to some Latin- heck, we're going for the whole enchilada!
So I use MS Pub and master up "Requiem aeternam" (Introit), provide the translation for the Offertorio, the Sanctus and Agnus Dei from "Jubilate Deo" (which conveniently are from the Requiem, the "Lux aeterna" for the Communio and "In paradisum" for the dismissal. We run off 100 copies and I figure we're locked and loaded. Then Father Dan comes in as we're running the second page of the back to back, and mentioned he'd envisioned a Spanish/English bi-lingual service with some "familiar" songs, title's unspecified.
The really cool thing is that we COLLABORATED; he got my thrust, I got his.
When Mass time began in the midst of the mausoleum at 12:15pm there were at least 150 people. The sun was brutal on the north half of the atrium, but the 40-50 seats somehow shifted to the shade and everyone found their, ahem, comfortable niche.
One of the speakers of the PA provided was in the corner of the mausoleum where my grandparents are interred, so I set up my stand there next to them. I can't describe the feeling I had throughout the Mass singing the chants and hymns with my namesake's remains within touching distance. And my crypt is a diagonal stone's throw across from their little cremation niches. The karma, the karma!
My Franciscan schola buddy, Ralph, joined me for a duo schola.
And off we go! The Mass has joined the ranks of those where purpose, intent, participation, spirituality, mystery and liturgy have locus together. Father Dan even went tri-lingual. His collects, prayers, homily and blessings flowed flawlessly from English to Spanish and, gasp, LATIN! It only reaffirmed to me a maxim that I posted here some time ago: when people mean to be there for the right reasons, they are engaged. And that doesn't just mean vocally.
We've been concluding funeral Masses with "In paradisum" consistently for a number of years now, but we've always had just a cantor or a small schola render the chant. What a moment to have the folk make their best attempts at joining in that beautiful commendation.
And as Father Dan said, this "new" tradition for us in this town simply is a natural grafting upon those primitive gatherings in the burial catacombs of our forebears millenia ago.
God bless the souls in Purgatory. Pray for them as the Saints pray for us. If we forbear, our reservation to finally see our Heavenly Host and His hosts will always be honored.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rembrandt von Rijn,

The Muse among the mongering...

I haven't been inattentive to posting purposely; there's been a significant amount of distraction and duties that have impacted my schedule over the last month. But, moreso than those, I've had reservations about "putting myself out there" amidst so much "noise" from all corners of "my" world.
I've been truly shocked by the incessant, indefensible and wholly incoherent series of bombings of "strategic" targets, aka "non-combatant" civilians in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan this week. I've been troubled by an apparently equally incoherent inability on the part of our national government leadership to actually govern, whether the issue is health care, the pandemic, the deployment of troops in the Middle East, the economy and banking, or whatever else is rendered unto Caesar.
I've been flummoxed at the sheer volume and shrill harping over the efforts of our Holy Father to reconcile with Christian denominations, the Orthodox, and our own divergent and perhaps schismatic Church's membership over issues, large and small, that he entreaties with charity, and is responded to with calumny and derision.
These last Sundays of the liturgical year do have, as our pastor rightly mentioned in a recent homily, a sense of urgency found in the scripture readings. That urgency reaffirms that we followers of Christ's Way have to make an ultimate decision that arbitrates nearly every thought we have and utter, and every decision and action we choose to take: are we about "power" and all that implies, or are we about "love" and all that implies? And there's nothing conditional about either of those maxims; we either live under one umbrella or the other. And the tempests and flurries of real life will yet and still try our fortitude to hold onto that umbrella, moment by moment, day by day, year by year.
To those who would think I'm an enemy- I offer you my love. To those who have loved me and I've offended that love- I offer my apology, sorrow and regret and repent of that sin in order to receive your love again. To my God, my Creator; His Son, my Redeemer and Lord; and the Spirit who counsels and comforts me- I love You with an undying, unyielding faith. And because of that, I will yield my self, my "power," and whatever other trappings of this earthly existence, as an offering in kind, substance and unity with Christ's redemptive sacrifice. And I will likely fail in holiness and truth. But I still choose "love."

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te.
In saecula saeculorum.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Saint Mary’s Parish, California
Order of Music-Sept. 6, 2009
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Introit Antiphon:S Lord, You are just… (Simple Choral Gradual/R.Rice)

Entrance: S O GOD, BEYOND ALL PRAISING 366 (Thaxted)
E READY THE WAY 435 (B.Hurd) cp

Opening Rites: S Misa Oecumenica (Proulx)
E Kyrie/Glory to God (New Danish Amen Mass-Culbreth)

Responsorial:SE Respond & Acclaim

Gospel Accl.:S Misa Oecumenica (Proulx)
E Alleluia (New Danish Amen Mass-Culbreth)

Offertory:S HEALING RIVER OF THE SPIRIT (Beach spring)

Eucharistic Accl.:S Misa Oecumenica (Proulx)
E Holy/Christ/ Amen /Lamb (New Danish Amen Mass-Culbreth)

Communion Procession: SE Antiphon: JUST AS THE DEER (Sicut cervus-Palestrina)

Communion Anthem:S organ solo (if necessary)

Recessional:S NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD (Nun danket)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Twenty-second Sunday, Ordinary
Order of Music

Saint Mary’s Parish, California
Order of Music-Aug.30, 2009
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Introit Antiphon: S “I call to You…” (Simple Choral Gradual/R.Rice)
E SPEAK, LORD (Uszler)

Opening Rites: S Misa Oecumenica (Proulx)
E Kyrie/Glory to God (New Danish Amen Mass-Culbreth)

Responsorial:SE Respond & Acclaim

Gospel Accl.: S Misa Oecumenica (Proulx)
E Alleluia (New Danish Amen Mass-Culbreth)

Offertory:S ALL GOOD GIFTS (Keil) from Epistle reading

Eucharistic Accl.:S Misa Oecumenica (Proulx)
E Holy/Christ/ Amen /Lamb (New Danish Amen Mass-Culbreth)

Communion Procession: Antiphon: “O Lord, how great is the depth…”(Simple Choral Gradual/R.Rice)

Communion Anthem:S IF YE LOVE ME (Tallis)

Recessional:S Organ postlude

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sacre Bleu!
Le Cantique de Stephan Janco.
I have more than a passing acquaintance with Steven Janco's much heralded "Mass of Angels and Saints." It's almost unbelievable how long it has been around, this heavyweight "contenda" destined to succeed MoC, according to their own publisher's initial publicity campaign of yore.

I have no doubt that the object d'art that hooked me when I first read the Mass setting was that its nose wafted with the aromas of truffles, anise, zitroen and most notably Michel Legrand. Legrand's Mancini (only French) penchant for the lilting melodic hook fascinated me from the day I first heard the music from "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg." Heck, Wendy and I had "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" sung during the Offertory at our wedding Mass. (It WAS 1974, whadidwe know?)
We even went to a few of Legrand's concerts when he'd blow through Concord.
Janco doesn't quote Legrand in MoAaS, but the motive that he repeatedly quotes (think of the Hosanna from the Sanctus) has that Franco-Euro soundtrack lilt that seems to only invoke "zat zounds zo luffly." And lovely it truly is.
I do remember, upon that first blush, noticing that this lovely tune was, however, less delicately supported by its choral arrangement. In point of fact, the SATB wasn't just inadequate, it was clumsy. I might have scribbled some alternative versions of movements that had the melody in the tenor and/or bass voices, with parallel harmonies assigned to altos and perhaps some contrapuntal descants whose rhythms alternated with those of the motive (think soprano versus alto lines in "Angels we have heard on high refrain")
Like MoC, MoAaS was supposed to be a hybrid; available to modernists and traddie choirs alike. But what was clear is that its metier was clearly geared for the ensemble, a Parisian quartet of piano, archtop guitar, bass and accordian. If you go to its publisher's order page today, you'll see about a dozen items you can order to augment this humble and singable Mass, including the ubiquitous Brass Quintet and Tympani parts! Mon Dieu!
We here in CenCA have infused it into rotation once in a bleu moon, but it doesn't hold our interest for more than a couple of months each go 'round. But, it is still fresh when not encumbered by too much accompaniment hoopla. Less is more, I believe, with this setting. Using a Django quartet and some light voices in the right mix, perhaps a soft soprano or alto sax lightly (not wailing like Jan Garbarek sometimes) improvising, has a nice finish.

Oh, and they used it in New Orleans this afternoon. I couldn't see clearly, but I think it was either Manny Ramirez or Big Papi on tympani.
A little Legrand goes a long way. Oh, and a little Faure to compliment the spiritual would relieve the palate as well. Au revoir.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Pretty much sums it up for me.

Coming SOON:

Liturgy and Music: Marines-Strong!
HT to Creative Minority Report

For those who are confused as to what this is about.
CREATIVE MINORITY REPORT is an orthodox blog that approaches the practice of Catholic living from the perspective of humor. They self-attribute their collective blog name from the following quote:
""Believing Christians should look upon themselves as such a creative minority and ... espouse once again the best of its heritage, thereby being at the service of humankind at large." --Joseph Ratzinger
The accompanying and borrowed graphic is from one of their author/artists who meant to capitalize (for better or worse) the then prevailing U.S. Government policy of "Cash for Clunkers" in the auto industry, which was promulgated to incentivize people towards both trading in older, inefficient cars for more idyllic technology in certain companies' catalogues. The analogy spoofed the whole project by the common, comical notion of the car salesman. But underlying the whole notion of both the graphic as well as the blog is that our Holy Father is decidedly NOT, unlike his or other public figures' caricatures, "crazy."
By satirizing the transient (sorry for the hapless, hirsute cleric) for the ideal, the faux-ad declares unabashedly a longing for real reform, real benefit, real human dignity that has been contravened for four generations of gadgetry.
Holy Father Benedict XVI, Papa and Bishop of Rome, is only "crazy" like a fox. He has the Light of Christ pointed for us to show us the way: lex orandi, lex credendi.

I am generally amused by the CREATIVE MINORITY folks' living up to their nominal adjective. I am generally not amused by those who miss the big point in order to demonize such free-thinking that works with and for the Church and the Holy Spirit. But, I digress. Such now have their explanation for the post. In such hubris, they betray the humility of their faith, their spiritual leader and the tenets of Christ's second answer to the Pharisees' semantical trap: "What is the greatest commandment?"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Elegies All Around

It has been an otherworldly, weird week in the valley violent death category. I'm not leading with that to prepare for a reading in cynicism; we just have our more than fair share of daily drive-by's, horrific crashes, whatnot. But one day after another found: a murder-suicide (girlfriend by boyfriend,) a teen unsuccessfully playing the "game" Russian Roulette (the newspaper quoted the boy's father declaring his son to have shown a promising future,) and an elderly, respected husband and wife knived and slain in their home, which happened to be the site of their massive marijuana cultivation/distribution operation!

I just returned to my office from the funeral Mass of the young lady murdered by her boyfriend. Our principal organist provided primary music ministry. I asked him he wanted some intinerent flute, so I added some obligatos and a couple of slower sonata movements. Basically, something simply called me to attend this particular funeral.

The mourners were a disparate lot, which is more the common experience nowadays than not, with suits and ties, T-shirts and spaghetti straps, tribal tattoos and plunging neckline cleavage....and very little audible evidence that any "catholics" were actually present. But, in light of the circumstances, the crowd was very somber and respectful.

I lightly regard funerals as a sort of hybrid "chickens home to roost" cum "come to Jesus" existential enterprise. I've done so many over forty plus (starting with my suicide dad's) that have covered the waterfront of human success and failure in this world that the only attitude I try to assume going into one is of resolution and hope. But I rejoice occasionally when surprised by grace.

In threes: One, a pall-bearer, strong-as-iron-carriage in RayBans, wiping a tear after a Bach "Siciliano"; Two, Miss Spaghetti straps, tight jeans, curves a-flowing over, with her eyes closed, intently responding "Lord, hear our prayer" during the general intercessions; and Third (the best) the deceased girl's mother adding a coda to a very brief eulogy in which she instructed all present "to keep God FIRST in your lives! When I ask my grandkids 'who's first in your love?' and they say 'Mommy and Daddy,' I tell them, 'No, GOD COMES FIRST!'"

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!


Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

St. John the Baptist Church,
El Cerrito, California
Position for Music Director
is apparently now open here.

These are photosnaps I took last summer while visiting my previous and last parish whilst working in Oakland Diocese. At the time we visited, a wedding was about two hours hence from commencing, thus the bows on pews.
This is a baptismal font that was part of their renovation (not there during my time up to '87)

These are examples of the "homegrown" paintings displayed below the sculpted (not pictured) stations lining the nave walls.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Cathedral of Saint Cecilia
"Progressive Dinner" Today

I have tried to find the exact Order of Worship for Archbishop George Lucas’ Installation Mass today with no success. So, my reflections on the service will be “on the fly” or “off the cuff,” so to speak.
One of the most difficult things I wrestle with when watching these ceremonies is that it’s obviously an easier path to criticize from a negative perspective when assessing from afar than to acknowledge liturgical “improvements.” This was made clear with the fur flying over Abp. DiNoia’s installation.
So, in bullets, off we go:
*Could the setting, tempo and performance of the first processional hymn set to “Lasst uns erfreuen" have been sleepier? By the seventh stanza or so, when the harmonization took some extreme turns, the organist's shoes seemed to have leaden soles a bit. I know that select camera shots don’t give an accurate portrayal of what’s actually going on in toto, but everytime a camera zoomed in upon an unwary priest already installed in a pew, said priest wasn’t singing. And there wasn’t much in the first processional to really look at, frankly.
*The second processional; was it a proper Introit? Was it antiphonal?
*Then “Praise to the Lord” (Lobe den Herrn) was taken up with some verve by all.
*As the archbishop finally entered and processed the choir took up a polyphonic proper, I assume. Nicely done. It also edified the notion of active participation through keen observation by the Faithful and ministers assembled.

One wonders at this point: why, if the intention is to engage both types of participation, was it absolutely necessary to stack so much vocal music before the episcopal introit? At subsequent moments in the Mass, much action was accompanied by instrumental music alone.

*Did anyone else hear some sort of “wind chimes” after the choral proper, and before the “In Nomine Pater?” And, given the extraordinarily milky tenor voice the Abp. possesses, why was that not cantillated? I mean, really?
*The welcome and introduction by Abp’s successor evoked laughter immediately after the commencement of the solemn liturgy. Why? I didn’t see the Dolan liturgy, but what is it about the presumed necessity to have a “Tonight Show” moment at American mega-liturgies?
*Does anyone else hate those flesh-eating Broadway wireless mics besides me?
*I don’t have my Ceremonial of Bishops handy at home, no Kyrie but a through sung “Glory to God” that seemed to quote “In Babilone” with some acceptable choral interludes.
*Everything seemed to be fudged half-way a bit:
a. Three candles flanking both sides of the altar, no crucifix.
b. The First Reading read in Spanish, AND then all the verses of a serviceable psalm also exclusively sung in Spanish?
c. The “communities” reception by the archbishop-
*The most decked-out cleric was, in fact, the Winnebago chief?
*Were the identically clad women in nylon print outfits nuns or twins?
* Was the gentlemen in the fez a Shriner, a dervish, what?
*The Gospel Acclamation: I defy anyone without the music to guess where the melody would go next. The verses rendered by the choir weren’t intelligible from the broadcast, hopefully not in St. Cecilia Cathedral. But I couldn’t help thinking that would have been an ideal location for a Latin Alleluia to be chanted.
*The “Heldentenor” deacon intones the Gospel collect and the congregation responds in force with his upper tessitura chestily. Then he RECITES the Gospel?
*The Spanish/English General Intercession’s setting was very, very tiresome. And what was with the yellow flowered English garden hiding the cantor at the lecturn? And the Abp. recites the concluding prayer of same instead of chanting…..But bishop, your voice….you could be one of the Priests! (From Ireland fame.)
*This is an honest question. What was the silver container (percolator-like) from which the wine was poured into the chalices?
*No Sanctus bells, no way, no how! How’d that happen? Or not happen?
*The Community Mass/Isele “Lamb of God”- stolid, safe choices.
*The “Pater noster” recited. I though Rocco said the archbishop knew his liturgical stuff?
*Why does the Sign of Peace at these events always morph into the “Murmuring of peace” or the “Din of peace?”
*Finally, a Latin Communio….sung well by the women….for a whole thirty seconds or so….then
*Not one, but two settings of Psalm 23 (St. Columba) and an antiphonal setting of which I’m not acquainted.
*Very long choral motet, seemed to be from the Romantic era, or the neo-polyphonic style but not like Stanford…..

Then my Tivo DVR, programmed for the block assigned by EWTN ended.

I’m not going to digest any of this yet. Just reporting what I observed.

A Critical Review of the

This review was composed in 1998 and I post it here in response to a thread over at MSF regarding usage permission to reprint by FNJ. I reprint it in full, though I know that I cannot avow total agreement for my remarks now, in light of the eleven year passage of time and my own continued understanding of the various aspects discussed.

There has been much discussion in various news groups of late regarding aspects of the publication and efficacy of the Adoremus Hymnal (Ignatius Press, S.F.,CA.) After doing a very brief comparison of titles cited in its advertisement to those of industry giants Oregon Catholic Press and Gregorian Institute of America, I posted some reservations concerning the ratio of content to value. In that much of the English-language hymnody of Adoremus was already found in existing volumes by OCP, GIA and presumably many other significant hymnal publishers, would its differences (increased Latin-language content, masses and other service music, absence of certain other genres) in editorial offerings warrant serious consideration of the Adoremus product?
I obtained copies of the Choir and Accompaniment editions recently and spent a few moments perusing the Choir Edition only. I decided to keep informal notes (using Ben Franklin's old model of Pluses/Minuses) as I went through the book.
First of all, I have no personal interest vested in this or any other hymnal. I would approach critical analysis of any catholic hymnal from its practicality, its artistic and textual merit, its preparation and attention to detail and, of course, the famed "3 factors" of appropriate worthiness outlined in the documents. I decided specifically not to consider the political or philosophical ramifications of this particular hymnal so warmly considered in recent news group threads.

On the plus side:
+A. The Order of Mass (pp.12-93) is given a thorough and dignified presentation with Latin/English facing pages. I particularly appreciate the detail given to ritual actions. This inclusion puts into the hands of all the faithful clear descriptions and instructions regarding all aspects of the rites. Such "up-front" liturgical catecheses is woefully missed in most other products, hardbound or subscription-based. I also appreciate the direct correlation of Latin to English that can only benefit my personal understanding of our ritual language heritage.
+B. The overall engraving of the hymnal is satisfactory. A great effort to make text and music font size uniform for the most part is successful.
+C. The musical authorship of a setting of the Vidi aquam as attributed anonymously to "a Cistercian monk" imparted to me a sense of humility.
+D. The Psalm-Tone Mass of K.Poterack provides a welcomed option for smaller congregations without great choral or accompanimental resources. Its motifs are reminiscent of the recent mass booklet settings by A. Gouzes (GIA.)
+E. Portions of C. Shenk's setting, Mass of St. Theresa, demonstrate a careful balance of melodic motives to textual intent without venturing into "word painting" or some such other techniques.(However, note some other observations in the "minus" section to follow about these same motifs.)
+F. Welcomed "re-inclusions" include: Austria, St. Patrick's Breastplate, National hymn,
+G. The volume of Latin chants, hymns, service music

On the minus side:
-A. Gregorian neumes used for the responses in the Ordo should prove manageable for many congregants. However, requiring our choristers/cantors to navigate the rules of interpretation is a daunting enterprise, not to mention the herculean implications of teaching the workings of the porrectus, quilisma and markings such as episemas to our diverse congregants. Yet, this is the only notational option provided for the interpretation of the Latin Ordinaries.
The great care taken to outline the rubrics of the rites in the Order of Mass is not mirrored anywhere in the pages of the choir edition. It would seem that the citation of the booklet "Jubilate Deo" and the preface remarks regarding giving Gregorian chant "pride of place in liturgical services" is then abrogated by the omission of any user-friendly instructions. I haven't consulted the accompaniment edition as of yet, but is it presumed by the editorial and executive committee members that all directors and choristers are proteges of Drs. Tortolano, Wm. Belan, and the good monks of Solemses already, LU's in hand? Would it have posed too much of an endeavor to bridge the experience gap of most post conciliar musicians by providing a similar
facing page model of Gregorian to conventional notation as was given in the Order? And yes, I'm aware that modern notation cannot completely accommodate the nuances of chant interpretation. But do the editors want us to take a first step in recovery or not? This complaint reverberated within me when I turned the page and encountered the "relief" of the modern notation of T. Marier's "English Chant Mass." This factor, more than Rory's (Cooney) wry observation of the irony involved in simply naming the hymnal Adoremus as regards "full, active and conscious participation," damages the admirable and presumably honest intent of the editors. Does providing such a musical "translation" de-construct the purity of the performance? Having been to a few workshops in my time, including those of our venerable colleague J. Michael Thompson, I think not. Help us get our feet wet, and the likelihood we will bring our assemblies with us increases as well.
-B. Nearly fifty pages of the Order of Mass is given to the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Canon. This factor combined with that of the next item
(-C) seems unwieldy and perhaps at the editorial expense of additional hymn or service music repertoire.
-C. The redundant duplication of common settings for various Latin/English or
English/English texts: much wasted page space. In many instances, additional texts could have their corresponding translations printed on the opposite or following pages.
-D. Useless inclusion of accompaniments for many chants and strophic hymns. Unless there is some compelling legal reason to include accompaniments that are useless in choral applications in the Choir Edition, this decision again takes significant page space at what expense? There are at least 38 examples of such titles. Some, such as #307 and #577 use five or six full pages needlessly.
-E. There is no statement concerning the key signatures chosen for hymnody. Again, without consulting the accompaniment I am unaware if recommendations are given to relieve tessitura constraints in certain hymns such as "Wachet auf" that could have simply been made prior to publication.
-F. Apparently the "Sing-Song Syndrome" as described by J. Swain in the Feb. 1998 issue of “Pastoral Musician” is clearly not confined to post- concilar hymns/service music, as evidenced by certain melodic constructs within the aforementioned "Mass of St. Theresa" and pedestrian tunes such as "Sleep Holy Babe (337)."
-G. Curious editorial choices such as the use of quarter notes instead of eighth notes as the principle rhythmic value for "O filii et filiae(412) and halves instead of quarters in "Victory” (413). Such choices don't advance an understanding of phrase and rhythmic movement as noted.
-H. Though the specific festive texts for hymns such as "Salve Feste Dies" can be given their specific prominence under certain titles, is it absolutely necessary to repeat their complete settings in three distinct locations in order to accommodate their seasonal assignments? In this particular case it seems to have escaped the editors that the arrangement provided is unsuitable for choral performance (another accompaniment) and thus should have been reduced to a melody only version in the subsequent repetitions, or text only?
-I Related to -H: Why weren't perfectly good choral (SATB) arrangements printed instead of the accompanimental versions for hymns such as "Crucifer (606)?" Also, was no consideration given to the inclusion of descant arrangements, in that a great preponderance of the English hymnody is of Anglican origin? This would have been stylistically authentic and artistically desirable.
-J. The signatories of the editorial and executive committees directly state in the preface (p.8) that the English-language hymns "come from a variety of traditional sources." They include "translated German hymns," "beloved English Catholic Hymns" (O God Our Help in Ages Past? hmmm..), and "...Catholic hymns little known in America." I would be interested in hearing from them how this self description constitutes a "variety." In fact, outside of the obvious Roman sources, the English and German sources and a smattering of about four or five French tunes and a non-Roman, yet Italian tune (Moscow), evidently nothing from the rest of European Catholic hymn traditions (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Baltic, Balkan, Scandinavian, Flemish (you name it) was included. Neither is there to be found source material from non-European sources, even from the vast body of Spanish conquisition-era repertoire of native and imported composers in Mexico and other Iberian-American geographies. Does this honestly satisfy the stated goal to contribute to "authentic implementation of the liturgical reforms" and "contribute to this effort by providing an essential treasury of liturgical texts, chant and hymns drawn from the historic patrimony of the Church for ordinary parish celebrations of the Mass (?)" (A personal note: a recent posting seemed to compare this narrow cultural milieu of Adoremus to targeting a market audience such as was
presumably done with GIA's Lead Me, Guide Me. Obviously the author of that post failed to mention that Lead Me, Guide Me is an exemplary effort that demonstrates the historical diversity that African-American Catholics have embraced within their "targeted" constituencies. I have often stated personally that, up until recently, it was the most culturally comprehensive of all major hymnals. This is no secret among liturgical professionals.)
In conclusion, I reluctantly conclude that The Adoremus Hymnal is yet an unfinished work in progress, and if editorially improved so as to expand either its "treasury" within its chosen domains or more historically accurate and inclusive, it will still be best realized as a companion volume next to more catholic compendiums. My hope is that our major publishers will take into account the intent of Adoremus and the CMAA when they, hopefully with a cross section of our religious leadership, Snowbird and Milwaukee signatories, known and respected practitioners such as P.Salamunovich, JMT and others, consider the compilation of the next major hymnal.

March 22, 1998

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Now let us unending hymn of praise....

This is another posting borrowed from MSF that dovetails from concerns expressed in the blogosphere about the seemingly incongruent use of a particular set of Eucharistic Acclamations during the recent installation Mass at the DC Shrine.

From the "Installation" thread I'm happy to receive Kathy's very insightful remarks, prompted by the concerns of Jeffrey and others, regarding the "problem of ownership" of the Sanctus. Her insight simultaneously reminds us of both the liturgical and theological aspects that attend the moment and performance of the Sanctus at Mass. (I do wonder if the discussion of the affect of singing the Proulx setting at the installation Mass in DC would have had such reaction and traction if the Sanctus of Mass XVIII was sung in its stead? Same question for the truncated Proulx setting of the Schubert "Deutsche Messe?" Would the liturgical moment have been more or less elevated in relationship to the ideals with those choices?)
I've mentioned elsewhere that the Sanctus from Faure's REQUIEM epitomizes that enjoining of heaven and earth in and beyond time for me. Whether or not I'm singing it in the choir or listening to it in concert or liturgy, that setting most rings my bells. Putting aside the fact that it demands a choral-only rendition, I would want to know if the affect of the Faure could be made manifest in a Sanctus that includes congregational participation as well?
I'm also putting aside, for brevity's sake, any concern about the argument for the choral/polyphonic Ordinary being occasionally appropriate in toto. I just want to concentrate on aspects that more or less that avoid pitting utility and aesthetics at odds. (A hat tip to Msgr. Mannion's five models of lit-mus.)
One of the first settings of the Holy in the post-SLJ era that captured my attention for having something similar in affect to the Faure was Bob Hurd's setting of the EA's on his collection "Roll Down the Ages." It seemed then and still now that the terraced rising of the "Holy" motive (very simple scalewise motion) partnered to the arpeggiated, semi-ambiguous major I to minor v harmonic accompaniment emulated the ephemeral beginning of the Faure. Of course the Hurd, being mindful of its utility, moves the text and musical setting along unlike the Faure. But I've interpreted the Hurd as emphasizing the power of the word "Holy" as its setting rises in intensity to "God of power and might." A new motive accompanies Hurd's "heaven and earth are filled" which is not difficult for a congregation to render at all, but is accomplished with a brief tonal center shift that Hurd then leads to another "Faure moment"- the "Hosanna." I'm not suggesting the Hurd matches the majesty of the Faure, I'm saying that it elevates the ideal, moment and cosmic unity in its own similar way. I now cease to discuss the Hurd specifically here, but my point is that I have yet to find, in most if not virtually all of the big gun publisher English settings, any other setting that resonates with the "perfection" I feel in the Faure. Like Gavin, gun to the head I'll take the Proulx "City" over his "Community" in a heartbeat; that puts me at odds with a majority of tradtionally oriented DM's already. I'll make the best of MOC (which I never use except at funerals/weddings; can't be helped) rather than the box step of the composite SLJ Mass of the 70's. I'll give props to Janco for upping the ante with "Angels and Saints" except that its repeated Michel Legrand melodic motives in 6/8 (that's Masonic? Wow, where'd that come from?) are too lugubrious and grow wearisome from incessant repetition. But that beats down the contrivance known as the "Celtic Mass" which doesn't contain any melodic motives as I recognize them at all, save for the movement that its author "borrowed" supposedly for a cantus firmus for the "new Mass on the block in the 90's.) Yikes, what a mess.
Now back to the issue of whether the Sanctus' demands of both utility and aesthetics can be met- one of the other settings I've mentioned here in the past is Rv. Schiavone's "Mass of the Holy Family" (OCP.) As he does throughout this brevis setting, he establishes a "refrain" ideal using a very decent and accessible melodic motif that he deploys for, if you will, super-moments in the text declamation. Between those moments, the choir alternates with some lovely, not profound, choral polyphonic sections. This Schiavone setting is much more successful with this integration than, say, Proulx's choral codas to popular "Amens" such as the Danish, the Dresden, etc. he published with GIA in the 80's. That set, along with some other ordinary settings I can't specifically name now at home, is analagous to putting a Dior gown on a mannequin. Another problem that has occured in modern English settings that have a sort of antiphonal construct, is that the congregational melodies that are, as I said, crafted to be "lovely" are generally set with equally lovely harmonic accompaniments. But when the choral only section arrives, suddenly the choir and organ are negotiating Bartok and Stravinsky-esque choral harmonies that obscure, if not obliterate the simple beauty that preceded it.
The word "hackneyed" comes to mind when I think of major Masses to hit the newsprints in the last two decades. And some of my own settings would so likely be regarded, in retrospect.

When the new translation texts are promulgated, I would hope that composers will remember that choirs exist not only to assist the congregation in singing whatever is rightfully theirs to sing, but to add a specific ideal of beauty to each and every musical moment. I would think that composers might benefit by studying how composers in all eras (including polyphony) treated specific textual elements and apply their compositional vocabularies to seemlessly calling forth the abilities of both congregations and choirs. Isn't that what is literally called for by the invocation to the Sanctus?

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Charles, you ignorant _____ !"
The following dovetails from the previous post. Over at MSF, Ian W, posed the following: "There are many of us working very hard to help restore beauty and solemn worship and music to the Church." (quoting an excerpt of mine)

Is it a matter of restoration, or of working towards the ideal in our generation? That is, was there ever a time when it was normal to hear the ordinary and the propers sung in a parish church, outside of the magic circle of those places where professional musicians have gathered? I ask partly out of historical interest, and partly for practical reasons. There's a world of difference between saying: we should do this because it is the ideal; and we should recover the practice of our forebears.

My response-

Ian, though I try to parce my words so as to best reflect my ideas, I see your point. As to the matter of restoration, I can only say the following- at this moment of my 40 years as a practicing Catholic, "restoration" for me means seeking to redress the denigration of worship by a incipient and proliferating culture of egotism. This culture is manifested in many more ways than music- constant chattering, Masses as photo-ops, lay and clerical ministers unwilling to subsume themselves in how they conduct their offices at worship in order to lead and direct our attentions fully eastward, et cetera ad nauseum. From my view, not in the loft, the tension between anthropocentric and theocentric worship isn't really all that tense in American parish life; "Sing a newchurch into being" is a reality that compels many of us to work "very hard to help restore beauty and solemn worship and music to the Church." Historical interest is only useful in that it should inform us in this work in this moment. The ideals, we trust, have been conchorded and canonized over more than 2000 years of organic practice; even though we can compare and contrast the geneological branches of liturgical forms, the vine and trunk are founded in worshipping the Creator in whose presence we should be both ever humble and grateful, as He provided us alone with the greatest gift in the universe, His Son and the sacrificial offering of Himself for the final remission of human sinfulness.
I remember my Master's mentor professor exclaiming that the scholas of the renaissance were unequivocally superior artistically to any of our own era. I questioned the logic, not to mention hubris, of such a declaration. Now, 22 years later I don't see any value in even discussing that issue, even as an artistic concern. Whether or not the Brudieu Requiem was sung "better" 400 years ago than it was a few Saturdays ago is supremely irrelevant. That it was sung that all present could enfold their faith with those souls of the deceased CMAA members in the living act of the Supper of the Lamb (thank you, Dr. Hahn and Fr. Keyes) was the sole and exiquisitely sublime, humble raison d'etre.
Now contrast that with most of the modern funerals for which many of us provide music assistance- the line between praising and remembering the deceased soul and the anamnesis that enjoins us to pray and praise God for the promise of salvation is generally very blurred. Same with weddings, confirmations, first get the picture.
I've hit that moment where I realize my bluster has outlived its stay. But I'll conclude with this- I looked over the pamphlet for a prominent "Liturgical Conference" held annually on an island state of the U.S. yesterday. One of the two keynote speakers for this year's event is retired bishop, Abp. Remi DeRoo of Vancouver, a self-proclaimed evangelist for the Spirit of Vatican II. As a curiosity, I'd invite anyone to google the archbishop's name, read a link to an interview (2002) in (then-named) Modern Liturgy and take in his contentions about what exactly were the pre-eminent concerns of the council and how they've not been realized in liturgy. And if you buy all that, I'll give you my Tom Conry LP which features "Anthem."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Particular Response to "The Proper Place of Mass Propers"

This is a reprint to a thread started in the Musica Sacra forum, and which co-relates to an article I've yet to read by Jeffrey Tucker in the current Summer 09 issue of "Sacred Music."

Those of us "here at CMAA" and many others obviously have crossed a perceptual threshold regarding the myriad issues of how liturgy is best conducted, performed and prayed. And we see some form of beatific vision that we believe we can enact both locally and universally. Around here, we seem to have agreed that such vision requires us to freely "care enough to FREELY SHARE our very best" with our musical gifts and talents. The issues that Jeffrey has so eloquently and repeatedly emphasized regarding IP and creative commons v. copyright restrictions is at the crux of the dilemma of the "proper place."
Discussions over the years with my pastors and vicars about these issues result, at best, with some sort of resignation to keep the status quo of the major publishers' newsprint worship aides. Why? IMO, simply because of our penchant and addiction for the convenient fix. Priests and musicians agree that this or that solution might be more "ideal," but the TPTB hold sway that (for example, currently) the Missal and Psalter texts will soon change, the English translations and chanted settings await promulgation, logistically in this economy we have neither the strategical or personnel resources to abandon the leaflet missals for weekly handouts, much less the stomach required that would demand more coherency of music selection on the part of disparate musical leaders, etc., yada, and so forth.
Now before countering with the absolutely perfect suggestion that the answer lies in the easy switch to a PBC or the Gregorian Missal, we have to look back to the other side of the threshold and see that modern American worship reflects modern American values that have held sway despite the parodies of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and "Madmen."
To me, interestingly the Liturgical Press Company offers two contrasting examples of how a fairly large business enterprise has tried to solve this problem of "proper place" with distinctively different approaches. BY FLOWING WATERS is generally acknowledged as one of noblest attempts to organically reintroduce many of the ideals of the "Mahrt" paradigm into parish worship, and was so salutated. And a couple of years ago the same company introduced PSALLITE, which as far as I'm aware didn't even make it up an eighth of the length of the proverbial flagpole. They (with no disrespect to Dr. Ford or the other editors) along with the Adoremus Society's first hymnal edition, the Collegeville Hymnal, and others basically operate in the "niche market" level of the worship aide economy.
So, where will the "proper place for propers" actually end up being? Hopefully, through some sort of near-miraculous collaboration of the USCCB/BCL, NPM, CMAA, other stakeholders with the "Industrial Liturgical Complex" of so villified recent memory. Gasp, "Do you suggest that BREAKING BREAD actually could continue to prosper with the inclusion of select settings of the Propers printed in their correct locations (ala Gregorian Missal) or as a sequential section, alongside the requisite hymns, songs, psalm settings and Ordinaries? Well, do you, Charles?" Ready now for the Bride to cold-cock me, I do. What's more, remembering that most of us do not work anywhere's remotely near the existential territory of St. John Cantius, I believe that because of our inherent preferential option for the convenient, the conventional wisdom still resides in Portland and Chicago; and that was why the USCCB walked away from the Pandora's Box a few November plenaries ago and deferred the "white list" of texts to those Sees. (Incidentally, having Francis Cardinal George preside at colloquium gave me much more hope in this regard. I can live with that.)
Whether or not, once the texts of the Missal and Psalter are released, each parish invests in a hardbound or newsprint missal/hymnal, TPTB that have more muscle and influence over tptb will have convinced those publishers to advance the works of the Ford's, Weber's, Kelly's, Ostrowski's, Rice's et al for inclusion within their main product offerings.
Then progress will be made real in the hands and sight of the celebrants and the faithful.
I know this vision falls short of the real paradigm, an optimally fuller return to the tradition of the chant and augmentation of same through the beauty of polyphony.
But I can't see any other macro-systematic way to further this process along.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Always at a precipice.
We finally flew back to San Francisco (and drove home Tuesday) after a pleasant sojourn to the Art Institute. That visit, our second, found us in the American artists’ galleries, making the rounds from roughly the colonial era to Georgia O’Keefe sections. During lunch at the museum café I remarked to Wendy that there always seems to be a point where the mind and its imagination needs recuperation when viewing painting, sculpture, furniture and the like. It seems to me that the eye, the mind and the soul shouldn’t even approach a saturation point as then one risks losing the subtle blips on the existential cardiogram that marks unique moments of anamnesis among all the input absorbed.
I always take in art through very narrow lenses; either lenses that have clarified my own vision of life in Charles’ world (or Charlie’s world, thank you, Sister Maria Paulina) or through the more gauze-like, misty glimpses into the “otherness” that reveals the Way, the Truth, the Life. So, I took a few photos which will doubtless show up in upcoming posts, presumably to bolster some insight or opinion I want to sell you.
But I’m very glad that Wendy scheduled extra time at both ends of the trip so that we could enjoy some little reveries. I forgot to mention a lovely late dinner last night in which our waiter, a very attentive, handsome actor trying to make his way to some serious footlights, had enough time and paucity of customers to actually sit down and drink some wine with us, eat one of the three amazing strawberry-shortcake biscuits that Wendy couldn’t resist (Okay, I ate one, but I avoided desserts at Loyola all week!) There is no occasion to avoid getting to know a stranger when one can make the time.
That kind of leads me back to Sister Maria Paulina; I wonder if anyone else at Chicago 09 thought, when she’d inevitably scoot up next to them and catch them unawares with “Hi, who are you? I’m Sister Maria Paulina!” and that smile that glowed as much as Bernini’s gilded stained-glass window adorning Peter’s Cathedra in St. Peter’s- this nun is the Little Flower of the 21st Century! Two brief moments at the Sunday brunch illustrate this radiance. The first really didn’t have her in the picture, but it was when, out the blue in that stately room the bemused murmurs rose as Maestro Brouwers careened around the tables at a pretty good clip, with that impish, Dutch-boy smile that enchanted Wendy so. The second- as we were making our farewells and headed to Sister’s table, where Wilko was seated next to her, after I give her a peck on the cheek, she says “God bless you, Charlie.” No one ever calls me “Charlie” as if they’ve known that is the version of my name that I cherish. I remark about that to her, and said that I became Charles when I got married. By this time Wendy had arrived at my side, and Sister said, “Oh, Charlie, what is your wife’s name? “Wendy, Sister.” “Okay.”
“Wendy, Wendy,” she called out, “I’m so pleased to finally meet you. You have to call your husband Charlie now.” We all laughed and then she said “You just call him that when he’s happy.” You could have knocked us both over with the feather. Sister had just looked into the 35 years of a married couples’ lives and given us both a gift which was also a kind and generous admonishment: Charles- let the Lord fill your heart with joy and happiness, for what other purpose are you living in this life? You know this, because you enjoy being Charlie. Wendy, help Charles be Charlie by naming him so when he lives and shares with you his happiness and joy.

I wonder with hope that as CMAA grows, that it can somehow avoid the natural curve of all human organizations as they expand. If, as Prof. Mahrt says, we all keep our eyes fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and adhere to the credo of holy, beautiful and universal, then there will be no doubt that the wanderings and exodus some feel have been endured over these forty years (did I just actually toss that off? Silly boy.) will end and the restoration of our sacred worship of God will be fixed, not as molten idols of either silver or gold, and made soundly and universally in Roman Catholic parishes in this country and everywhere.
Mr. Doug Cowling


I received the following email posting from a non-CMAA colleague who thought it required notice and reply. What I have to say is below the communique from Mr. Doug Cowling.

Hi Charles,

I think you would be very interested to have a look at this email from the Anglican Music listserv.

I think you should reply to this message, but via your blog.

I hope all is well with you.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Douglas Cowling
Date: Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 5:38 PM
Subject: [Anglican-Music] CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium

The CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium has posted audio clips of all its
liturgies. Not very good quality but interesting to see what the
extraordinstas are promoting.

Much of it sounds like anglo-catholicism revisted with lots of English adaptation. There's a fully sung compline in English that will alternately intrigue and horrify Howard.
Bud will be interested in the "Votive Vespers of Saints John and Paul,
Martyrs" (only an Anglican could come up with that rite!) that uses the fauxbourdons of Lassus throughout. A rare opportunity to hear the opening responses and all five psalms sung alternatim!
The conference also premiered a newly discovered Renaissance Requiem by Joan Brudieu (ca.1520-1591) Quite a lovely piece.
There is a session on New Composition including a serviceable Latin mass with piano (organ?), Missa O Fili et Filiae by Richard Rice.

The level of choral performance is adequate, but the recording is so awful that it's not fair to judge the choirs. If Americans can't throw money at better choirs for a showcase venture such as this, I can't see much of this repertoire trickling down.

Doug Cowling
Director of Music
St. Philip's Church, Etobicoke

My reply to my friend follows:

Thanks, _____
That a fellow musician in service to a Christian denomination so closely related to the Roman church would publicly post such condescension and disdain towards fellow travelers is truly disheartening. But he knows NOT whereof he speaks.
I'll mull this over, whether it should be cross referred to Catholic fori, because what good would it serve. My blog might be okay, because virtually no one but you goes there, as far as I know.
It was heaven. The choirs he mistakenly infers were pre-existing units weren't; they are US attendees of all degrees of competence all focused upon.......serving the liturgies of the day with holiness, beauty and universality.
Mr. Cowling ought lower his proboscis, retract his invective and issue CMAA a formal congratulation, if only for recognizing what he also mistakenly thinks is an exclusively "AngloCatholic" paradigm of worship. "Extraordinistas?" Please.

Monday, June 29, 2009

uh, no that's not precise....howabout coalesce?

After dropping off the colloquium's resident countertenor, Norman, at the train station,Wendy and checked into the Westin and we dilly-dallied for an hour or so, then did the obligatory trek to Navy Pier and took our requisite Ferris Wheel ride. Gorgeous is Chicago on such perfect days!
When we came back to the hotel we thought we'd have a small, mid-afternoon repaste and Wendy had thought she'd heard there was a Tapas on the second floor. Got there and, lo and behold, there was the registration of the American Cantors Association! Yarmulkas and smiling faces and lively greetings in abundance were everywhere.
Being the never trepedatious crasher, I sauntered into their exhibits, beautiful shawls and headwear that reminded me of Fr. Hayne's final homily, glistening jewelry and gemstone articles, artwork, books of music that seemed to indicated a heavy leaning towards the Reformed and Conservative branches of Judaism, ie. guitar straps and accoutrements were the dead giveaway.
My grin must've given me away as the goy Cheshire Cat fer shure.
Anyways, I thought it an interesting confluence. I'd love to stick around. We were returning to the room and a young man with kids was chatting up a short, compact and attractive middle aged woman, remarking how he was a "life-long fan" of hers. It was sweet, but kind of NPMish in a way.
Anyway, I mused about what it would be like to have an impromptu session where our two traditions could weave their melodies and our shared scriptural treasures together. Muse. "Neither Greek nor Jew..."
We're going to check out, drive the rental around Chicago for three hours, then onto O'Hare and San Francisco.
Kathy, if you read this, email me at scurradei (at) sbcglobal (dot) net, thanks.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tongues of fire, tongues on FIRE!

Somebody explain to me why Jeffrey Tucker posits that we colloquium bloggers have been slackers! He's not getting my Bloomingdale's $45 bow tie, which is still fresh as an unpacked Paschal candle for griping over at NLM! So there! Kidding.
We did, after the magnificent Vespers,feté the King of Pomp and Circumstance. But he was, of course, late for the feté, so it was left to me to verily praise, honor and initiate the salute and toast to the true Queen, not Elizabeth I, not Mary Queen of Scots, not Marie Antoinette nor any mere mortal south of the BVM- no I'm talking Mrs. Arlene Oost-Zinner. Yes, she who, not unlike the BVM (or Elizabeth for that matter) will roll up her sleeves, box surplus books, write out whiteboard directions for the following day's locales whilst others are partying or sleeping, circumnavigate Lake Michigan on a morning walk, and teach the rendition of a perfect gradual....SIMULTANEOUSLY. Only our true CMAA Queen receives the plastic margarita grail inwhich inordinately priced but truly succulent wine is poured.
Jeffrey did roll in and also received his plastic orchid-adorned cup with some hearty red as well. I have to give him his props (he is of particular genius, you know) in that he figured out who the lone basso was that was inspired by the Holy Spirit to join in singing the psalmody assigned Arlene's Treble Schola at Vestpers.
And, as many have commented here and in cyberland, he's so, so, well....animated!

The Requiem Mass for Msgr. Schuler and CMAA/Cecilia Society predecessors:
1. The Joan Brudieu Mass setting proved to be like a Hope Diamond one finds at a garage sale. I thank Jeffrey for assesing our choir's performance as stunningly beautiful under Maestro Brouwer's immaculate and purified preparation and direction. Wilco was able to let his "hair down" in the afternoon to describe his discovery of the gem and its journey to Chicago. It is proof that there is still much gold in the old mines that have been long abandoned and assumed fallow. CMAA, do your homework. Find out who these odd names are in the St. Basil, the St. Pius X and other venerable hymnals. Go looking for Psalters from city-state cathedrals whose composers' settings were in the vernaculars of the 16th century. Then look for their Ordinaries. These are the treasures spoken of in the documents. The Predieu Mass represents all those ancestors of ours who added to the treasury of sacred music so eloquently examined in Fr. Ruff's book.
2. This Mass was, among all the other liturgies of the week, the very embodiment of our Holy Father's book "The Spirit of the Liturgy." I particular commend and cannot wait for the transcription of Fr. Hayne's homily, which is Cosmology 101 of the Roman Mass in the Usus Antiquor.

We've laid down some preliminary agreements to host a weekend seminar in Central California with Professor Mahrt, Fr. Jeff Keyes and MaryAnn Carr of San Diego sometime between Christmas and Lent of the next liturgical year. Talk of forming a West Coast chapter of CMAA has of a West Coast Colloquium has been whispered....(I'm still thinking we take our act to Europe!)

A couple of related sociological phenomena have presented themselves as powerful witness: home-schooling families and the pre-eminent mandate for musicians and clergy to not relinquish their rightful authority over the instruction and repertoire presented to our parochial school children! The young adults who've been home-schooled are deeply networked and poised to assume leadership of music ministry if given opportunities by enlightened clergy locally. The young seminarians present are protean examples of the future of the priesthood as the Holy Father envisions and brings to our world-wide attention as we've entered "The Year of the Priest."

Lastly, Scott Turkington is perfect. Even when he's directing on top of a chair.
Thank you, and good night now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

(as in "Mother Church")

After this morning's Usus Antiquor Mass (which was Wendy's first!) I typically had this weird notion that somehow the liturgy, of which we are both part and participants thereof, had taken a huge fall down the stairs at various points of implementation of the NO across the nation, and we've had our heads on backwards ever since.
Consequently another phenomenon can be borrowed from this film:
We've lived with a huge hole in our beings ever since, and if the fix, like the magic potion or the plastic surgeon's spray paint in the film is truly artifice, then we will continue to try any and every new thing on the shelf to fill that hole.
Back to this morning's Mass. For me, my second EF at a colloquium, well, I won't be singing "Are the stars out tonight, I don't know if it's cloudy or bright, 'cause I only have eyes for ME, dear me!" Uh, the stars are now aligned in my sight. And they take me away from me ('cause IT'S NOT ABOUT ME!) and point me towards the Son of Righteousness, the Daystar, the Phos Hilaron.
If anyone should ask, by the way, the Treble Schola from St. John Cantius simply rocks! More to follow, cheers!
PS. Last night we were going to call it a night early with one nice bottle of Zin from the Central Coast (Paso Robles), but Professor Mahrt came out of nowhere for a second go 'round. Oh, did we break out the good stuff, and I mean more than the finest fruit of the vine. Tres bien.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I shudder to think

Well, intrepid followers, Professor Mahrt did hearken unto the call of the cabernet last evening and bless our little chat room confreres with good company and good wine courtesy of the late, great Mondavi. We held forth for a good two hours at a subdued yet lively level of conversations that opined about, oh just about ever'thing. It was truly an honor to share in his wisdom, so self-effacing most of the time, because he just seems to exude: "Well, that's just good old common sense, isn't it?"
I think the most impressive aspect about the very nature and character of "CMAA" people is that, though we/they do wax on about very real, global and universal concerns, issues and problems the Church and its worship ideals and practices, virtually every member I know is quite content and humbled to just concentrate upon what they can do in their own places of worship to help "restore the sacred" and with those who have sewn the seeds earlier than others, add to the legacy and treasury of their parish or cathedral worship traditions that have been restored with an integral beauty.
Cardinal George's homily on this celebration of the eve before the birth of St. John Baptist kept the notion of "I must decrease, so that Christ may increase" as the recurring motif for what we do in our vocations. I know that in other places I visit and post concerning liturgy on the world wide interlink there are a majority of folks who refuse to look through the scales over their eyes, passed whatever iconstasis they've been inculcated to regard as heirarchical at best, discriminatory at worst, and see what is so obvious about the Holy Mass that shook my wife to her core and to exclaim, (really, she did!) "I got it- it's not about US!"
And I don't really wish to disparage either the good people who work for the Lit/Industrial Complex corporations or their clientele who will gather (how they like to just say and do that: "gather.")for their love-fests and "free exchange" of both ideas and their necessary offspring, "goods and services." But, for the life of me, of what are many of them so afraid of discovering when they encounter the CMAA, the odd organist or choir master who deigns to strategically infuse a chanted proper or ordinary setting without prior clerical approval? Why, if our talented organists (such as young Gavin who posts at MSForum) are willing to give a respectful treatment and accompaniment to "Glory and Praise to Our God," are the clerics, committees, choirs and cantors who require those songs not willing to even entertain the notion of reading, digesting, and acknowledging not only the expressed policies of how and with what do we worship, but to actually get their toes wet somewhere in the vicinity of Lake Michigan, Loyola or St. John Cantius? I know of some people who are actually in mourning that "their" Mass will be denied them, AGAIN, as they believe they were excluded from the ownership and priesthood of the faithful prior to the revised order of the Mass after the council. They're all angry.
No one at CMAA is angry. Not a soul. Some of us are weird, (guess who?), some of us might rightly be described as fanatics (but not lunatics!), and many of us are highly exciteable people. But what we are not is fearful, or angry, or frustrated or disheartened.
Earlier today I ran into Jeffrey Merton, Chironomo, who is posting, along with Aristotle, and thanked him for those techie things I can't bring to the ether. But I told him I was going to, as the papers would say, break a newsflash. Well, here it is, though it's only an idea that surfaced at the end of our Mahrt night. The professor told us how Cardinal George wanted not only to come to this CMAA event, but to celebrate Mass! So MaryAnn, Singing Mum just kind of "dreamed a dream" out loud: "What about inviting the Holy Father next year?"
Here's my vision: what would it be like if we, CMAA, could take our road show to the Holy Father, say in Munich one year, with Fr. (brother) Georg and the monks of HeiligenKreuz as guests and presenters? As I said to Professor Mahrt, what kind of sign would that be to the whole Church if "the Americans" went to the First World as the vanguard crusade for TROTR. Americans in Europe, without some diva slicing eardrums with the Schubert or the Tenore with the Franck? No, just Turk, Jeffrey, Arlene, Frs. Pasley, Keyes, Phillips et al, and our motley crew singing with tender care and adoration this "other language" that belongs only to God, and as Fr. Ruff observed others deeming it not just music and text, but a whole other form of commuication in praise of Jesus, the Christ, Lord and Savior of us all.
Now that would be pilgrimage.

Heaven.....I'm in heaven....

Mass in the Ordinary Form, Latin, presided over by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, the exquisite chapel at Loyola, Chicago, my beloved at my side, her magnificat voice and heart singing square notes as though she'd done so her entire life, seemingly innumerable ensembles and scholas approaching the spirit of the Liturgy with great beauty, awe and aspirations towards the perfection we await, and an improvised postlude that represented, for me, both the terror and awe that does await us should we be graced to encounter infinity in the Divine Presence of God.
It is not enough to think while going home, "What do I tell people happened? You hadda be there?" No, you gotta be there. More to follow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The View From the Other Side of the Dorm Room
This is Wendy's first reflection on the trek to CMAA through the forced march of 35 years of post-concilior liturgy shared within our marriage and life experiences.

In sharing with a friend in California earlier today while sitting in front of the Maris Stella Chapel, looking out at Lake Michigan, this is a life changing experience which cannot be expressed other than in beauty and tears... raised Anglican and confirmed on the eve of my marriage, the past 36 years as a Catholic have been spent assisting others in prayerfully, musically worshipping God at Mass and through other experiences. Although there have been moments of the sacred through the years, and although it has been with reverence and love that I have offered my abilities and time to the Church, there has been nothing to reflect in association with the experience at the Colloquium thus far and to come. The intensity, simplicity, reverence, awareness, expertise, love...poured out, one for each other, by all attending this retreat is overwhelming to my experience - hence expression in beauty and tears. With joy I lift up my voice in the midst of the great beauty. With joy and heartfelt gratitude, my tears flow silently.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Prima nochte

So many friends, old and new. What a pleasure to meet Jeff Ostrowski and his Corpus Christi crew of youngin's. I don't care what he tells you, he's going to get carded every time until he's 65, if he ever imbibes a fermented beverage! His portrait must be adjacent to "energy" in the dictionary; and such a nice sibling he brought his little sis with the crew just because she loves to sing. And that, meinen Freunden, ist dass Punkt!
And then there was meeting "G"/Scelata after a year of wondering who the heck this brilliant woman is who doesn't take squat from anyone and posts like she's Samuel L. Jackson proclaiming "And dat's the truth, Ruth!" Kathy (Hymnography Unbound), whom I briefly got to know at SD Intensive is so charmingly coy. MJB was all business helping AOZ with all things registrative.
So, after a primer of introductions which would serve as perfect models of what I'd want to hear from my parish ambo weekly, the plenum sang a couple of motets under Professor Mahrt and Dr. Buchholz, and then we diaspora'd to five distinct polyphonic choirs. We set up shop with Maestro Brouwers and the Joan Brudieu Requiem. We went up to the 7th floor of Mundelein Hall overlooking the lake and after some brief biographical remarks (I think this fellow Brudieu was some sort of proto-Basque version of Poland's Gomolka) we started the Kyrie. Wendy appreciated how his corrective remarks were so tactile and accessible. What I liked was his adherence to the maxim "If you want them to listen actively, don't sing so darn loud!" It's going to surely evince a strong witness to the faith we share through this director's insights and demands. And that word, demand, is why I so believe in what CMAA is doing, why I wanted the love of my life to viscerally experience the spectrum of Catholic sacred music culture that has been sequestered. Liturgy is the work of the people, except that we have devalued the very notion of what "work" constitutes; it is supposed to hurt, it is supposed to be difficult and almost unatainable, it is supposed to such difficult exercize that ought to compel the worshipper to want to prove worthy of being in the presence of the Divine. Brouwer, et al here, get that in spades.
Compline was Wendy's first venture into the Office; she "did" so well, but she felt that she didn't even get her toes wet. I can't wait for the moment when she gets that it is simply about being in that moment totally committed, whether or not she nuances every neume and word perfectly or not. I think she is among those of whom Jeffrey spoke about in his NLM post earlier today. It is a beauty to behold.
Speaking of beauties to behold:

And as it's 12:21 CST as I conclude, I might say that Simpson 4th floor was well represented in the common room by 3 Californians, 1 young buck CA/Oregon DM who took Amtrak (that shows moxie), a great young priest from SC, and our surprise guest, a DM from Canberra, Australia (lucky I had some Yellowtail Shiraz on hand!)
We tried, and I mean we as in MA Singing Mum and the old man here, to coax Prof. Mahrt to have a sip of some fine Cab not from Pomeroy's Wine Bar, but he needed to settle in. So, we kept the fires burning until a lovely man next to the common room reminded us of the witching hour, which we immediately respected.
Wendy's nodded off, I'm going to lay the corpulence down in a minute. But this so bodes well for the resurgence of our Roman Rites here in the US, and maybe the "West." I can't speak to how convicted I felt next to my wife as we sang Compline together; it was so........CATHOLIC.